Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Xbox One) Review

By Josh Di Falco 28.06.2017 8

Review for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Xbox One

Shantae is back in her fourth adventure, and newcomers of the series do not have to fret. This is more like a "soft reboot" as opposed to a full-blown sequel, and the story is treated as such. When Shantae receives a warning about the threat against the Genie Realm, she must quickly take action in order to preserve the genies with help from a very colourful cast of characters. Her Uncle Mimic is back with his wacky inventions, with Sky, Bolo and Rottytops also assisting in on the adventure. WayForward Technologies really pushes this series further another step, as Shantae: Half-Genie Hero brings the magic once again!

To start, Shantae looks gorgeous. The vibrant colours and well-animated environmental elements add such a charm, and part of the enjoyment derives from just how great the game looks and plays. From the subtle leaves that blow on the trees, to the way Shantae's hair twitches here and there, nothing seems to want to stay still, and it definitely helps in making this world feel alive and rich. There is a great Odin Sphere feel to this game, both in art-style and gameplay, and considering how awesome that game turned out, this is a terrific thing.

While the game is not specifically a "reboot" of the franchise, the story in no way harkens back to the previous games. It instead opts for a narrative that reintroduces the characters and the locations so that new players do not have to play catch-up, while it does not overdo it for the returning players to roll their eyes at or get frustrated by. Risky Boots returns as the villain of this piece, as she and her pirate band of Tinkerbats threaten the peace and serenity of Sequin Land, and Shantae must embark on a quest to rid the realm of her evil with the aid of her friends and her genie powers.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Xbox One

Shantae attacks with her hair, as she whips them to defeat enemies. However, being a genie has its benefits, such as the ability to perform spells. Unfortunately, for her, these spells must be purchased from an item shop first, but it is not long before a manner of spells is at her disposal and they are fun to use. While the base spells may rarely be used at the beginning, the upgraded versions are incredibly handy to have, and makes life a lot easier as the difficulty of the enemies get greater.

However, the real point of this game is Shantae's ability to transform into a manner of animals in order to surpass obstacles and caverns. Transform into a monkey, and climb up the face of walls, or fly across terrains as a bat. Or squeeze into tiny spaces as a mouse or explore the depths of underwater spaces as the sideways-walking crab. Each of these transformations plays an integral role to the game, and they each need getting used to in order to get the most of the game.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Xbox One

There are certain obstacles and the like that can only be passed by certain animals, and the game does a great job of teaching their abilities without the use of a tutorial. Unlike some games, where the chances of getting confused in the latter stages when the challenges become complex, Half-Genie Hero never feels overwhelming in the slightest. It is easy to figure out which animal is meant for passing through certain sections, and for a game of this nature, that is a great thing to have.

The stages themselves may feel like they are limited to just the left-to-right screen-scroller, but there really is a lot of hidden sections that make this game feel a bit larger. Revisiting the earlier stages with newly unlocked animal transformations just adds to the fun and joy of exploring this world. The point of exploring these new areas is to discover the abundance of hidden collectibles that are worth their weight in gold in the end. The stages are flexible in that multiple different animals can complete the stage, so trying to find new ways to conquer that is fun, and finding the secrets require exploring these stages as many of the animals.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Xbox One

The boss fights are epic encounters, with large-scale battles that play out in a series of phases. Backed by a rocking backing track, these moments are creative and joyous to take part in. None of the battles play out in an overly difficult way, as they provide the right challenge for it to not be a walkover, but without causing players to rip their hairs out either. This free-flowing nature extends to the general stage layouts and enemies as well, and it allows the game to be played at a consistent pace.

Well, the game is almost consistent. Occasionally, the difficulty will spike up quite a bit at a random time, and generally, this is due to a combination of quirky stage designs and the drawbacks of controlling certain animals. While nothing is perfect, trying to guide the Harpy through a series of spiked-walls is infuriating when Shantae constantly follows-through the stopping animation right into the wall that she is meant to be avoiding. But alas, with the constant spikes and troughs of the difficulty, the overall theme of the gameplay is on the lighter side of the challenge, which would be a welcome sight for the younger players, who the games art style and humour really lend themselves to.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Playing as a genie has never been more fun. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a wonder to behold, and can be enjoyed by players of all ages. The rich colours and addictive gameplay are sure to get the attentions of the younger gamers, and this is a terrific platformer to keep them entertained, while still providing fun and difficulty to the older audience. The game may have the occasional difficulty spike, but the cutesy theme and the bombastic music add to the overall epic nature of the boss battles. The only disservice regarding Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is not playing it!

Developer

WayForward Technologies

Publisher

WayForward

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's so enjoyable going back and uncovering all manner of secrets in the different stages. At first I thought it was going to be ridiculously short because of the number of stages, but WayForward has crafted them in such a way that they have hidden depth. Love it!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Interesting, I take the side of the earlier review, I thought this game was woefully average, pretty much derivative trash.

I'm more inclined to agree with Eric on this one. For a Kickstarted project, it still seems rushed, generic, far too much reused from other games, and padded to hell. Really expected it to be something much more special, considering I really liked what they did with Risky and then Pirate's Curse. This seems like a step back.

Reviewing this game, I had never played the previous Shantae games. Thus as my first foray into the series, I did think and still do think that the game was brilliant in it's art design and game play and it provided plenty of fun and enjoyment. 

I didn't find it to be a really deep game, though I didn't think that it needed to be. What were some of the changes between this and Pirate's Curse?

I think that's the issue - it is so similar to Pirate's Curse that it just feels like such a letdown for a Kickstarted game that should have looked to do more than just artificially extend the length of the game with fetch quests and whatnot. I dunno, I haven't quite finished Half-Genie, but I actually put it down because of the disappointment. It just got boring in some respects. It's still a fun game, mind. I just think it really played it far too safe.

Odd that, because I've played all the Shantae's and whilst this felt different than Pirate's Curse, which initially put me off (controls felt a bit off), once I got quickly accustomed, I thoroughly enjoyed it - couldn't put it down. The major pitfall for me was how easy it was on Normal.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I can see your point of the fetch quests being padding to extend the game's lifespan Az, however I felt it was necessary to have those minor excursions away from the base story. Because rather than being the standard fetch quest of "Can you get X from X location", this game rather dropped subtle hints about where it would be and encouraged exploration and the chance to use Shantae's manner of new abilities. These sections felt like it had a bit of an "open world" feel to it, especially when it came to trying to find the different secrets, whereas the core story was so linear that most of that exploration just wasn't required of the player.

Yeah, the fetch quests thing didn't drag me down because I'd actually been so encouraged to find ways to access hidden parts of stages that I ended up collecting some many objects that the quests were pretty much auto-completed when I bothered to trigger the final part of the story.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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